updated 10:35 pm EDT, Thu September 22, 2011
Apple backs DDP calls for warrant-based searching
Apple and Dropbox took rare political stances Thursday by joining Digital Due Process. The coalition, which includes technology firms like Comcast and eBay as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, is primarily interested in toughening laws barring law enforcement from snooping on computers and mobile devices without a warrant. Recent campaigns have focused on modernizing the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act), a 1986 bill that doesn't account for many modern Internet components.
Among the gaps are e-mail and messaging, where the need for a warrant can hinge on whether or not the text has been read. Search isn't covered in any form. Location, a sore point for smartphone OS designers like Apple, has also been a subject of contention with investigators sometimes using dubious grounds to get access to a phone's tracked position.
The gesture has seen the EFF give symbolic awards to Apple and Dropbox for the first time in trying to advocate for privacy in Congress, joining Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and others. Both are ranked relatively low but also haven't usually been challenged in the other categories, such as telling users what data the government wants or facing a trial where privacy is a central issue.
Apple has been attacked for location policy ever since an older version of iOS 4 was found to be collecting much more location data than it needed, albeit anonymously. Since patching the issue, it has been more active in privacy, curbing how much it collects. DDP may be an indication that Apple wants to now reassure iOS and Mac owners that any data won't be intercepted without a proper legal path.
Dropbox, as a cloud storage service, is likely keen to minimize fears that personal files synced to the cloud could be intercepted by government officials without a warrant. [via EFF]